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China pressured Solomon Islands to let a heavily armed Chinese security detail enter the nation

Chinese President Xi Jinping waves to deputies at the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Lan Hongguang/Xinhua/Sipa USA/TNS)
April 12, 2022

The Chinese Communist Party asked the Solomon Islands to allow China to deploy an armed plainclothes security detail in the nation, leaked documents reviewed by The Guardian and confirmed by the Solomon Island government revealed on Tuesday.

Dated Dec. 3, 2021, the documents showed that China asked to send security personnel armed with pistols, rifles, machine guns and a sniper rifle to the Solomon Islands after riots broke out in Honiara near the Chinese embassy last year.

In its memo, China said the security detail was needed due to “the current security situation in Solomon Islands”.

“The government of the People’s Republic of China has decided to send a plainclothes security team (10 personnel) with necessary light weapons and equipment to the Chinese Embassy in Solomon Islands. The team will be responsible for internal security and necessary escort missions outside of the Chinese Embassy,” the documents read.

In addition to firepower, China informed the Solomon Islands that the security staff would bring radios, satellite phones, infrared thermal cameras, 10 daggers, 10 electric batons, an electronic listening device, gas masks, and metal detectors.

In response, Solomon Islands’ foreign ministry permanent secretary Collin Beck said he had “no objection” to China’s request over a “six to twelve-month period,” noting that Solomon’s officials were unable to guarantee the safety of the Chinese embassy’s staff.

“The request stemmed from the recent three days of from [sic] 24-26 November riots of which Solomon Islands Chinese community faced the brunt of the looting and violence amongst other business houses,” Beck wrote.

“My Ministry during the period could not guarantee the safety of the Embassy and staff,” he continued. “As host country we had an obligation to protect all Embassies including [the] Chinese Embassy. In this regard, we have no objection to the request.”

Beck also said that the request and subsequent approval “sadly … sets a precedent” and that “China is a special case noting public debate was and remains directed against China’s interests in the country from certain quarters of our country’s population.”

The government of the Solomon Islands confirmed the leaked documents’ accuracy, cautioning against “fake news or misinterpreted commentaries on social media forums following leaked documents containing official correspondences between the Solomon Islands Government and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Embassy in Honiara”.

“There is nothing to be concerned about,” the government said.

Last week, China denied that it is planning to build a military base in the Solomon Islands after the two nations quietly signed a security agreement.